Autonomous missile test completed with BAE technology

The US Navy has tested a self-guiding long-range missile that uses British technology to autonomously locate and target moving ships.

The prototype Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) is designed to seek out enemy vessels from a far enough distance to keep the aircraft or surface system that launched it out of reach of counter-fire measures.

BAE Systems developed a long-range sensor to help guide the LRASM, which was successfully launched by prime contractor Lockheed Martin for the first time at the end of August, without the use of overhead radar-equipped targeting planes or GPS to help steer the missile.

‘The first live fire LRASM test verified our long range sensor’s accuracy detecting and identifying targets,’ said BAE Systems’ general manager of technology solutions David Logan in a statement.

‘Its performance validated the sensor’s signal processing algorithms, as well as its reliability under the environmental stresses of a missile flight.’

The LRASM programme, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), aims to reduce dependence on intelligence systems, wireless network links and GPS, which may not always be available to a missile or could be vulnerable to attack.

The new sensor gathers less-precise targeting data about the environment, even in difficult locations where signals can be reflected, blocked or interrupted, and uses algorithms to pinpoint target positions.

The missile successfully struck an unmanned target ship off the coast of southern California.

For the test launch, the prototype missile was launched from a B-1 bomber plane off the coast of southern California, switching from pre-planned navigation to autonomous mode half way through the flight before detecting and hitting an unmanned 260-foot Mobile Ship Target (MST) with an inert warhead.

‘This fully functional test is a significant step in providing the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force with a next-generation anti-ship missile capability,’ DARPA programme manager Artie Mabbett said following the trial.

‘This test is the culmination of the five-year development and integration of advanced sensors in an All-Up-Round (AUR) missile. It also represents the first time we’ve integrated advanced sensors and demonstrated the entire system, resulting in performance that substantially exceeds our current capabilities.’

This was the first of three air-launched flight tests scheduled for LRASM.